Cutting Off Access to Funds, Bolstering Criminal Justice Responses Key to Severing Terrorism-Organized Crime Link, Experts Tell Security Council

Speakers Urge Greater Support for States with Porous Borders, Weak Legal Mechanisms, Share Ways to Tackle Threats from ISIL/Dae’sh, Al-Shabaab, Boko HaramCombating terrorism and organized crime hinges on unravelling and severing the ties between these …

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Security Council Adopts Resolution Calling upon Belligerents Worldwide to Adopt Concrete Commitments on Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict

Members Pass Resolution 2467 (2019) by 13 Votes in Favour, None against, as China, Russian Federation AbstainThe Security Council called today upon warring parties around the globe to implement concrete commitments to fight what many speakers described…

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Security Council Adopts Resolution Calling upon Belligerents Worldwide to Adopt Concrete Commitments on Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict

Members Pass Resolution 2467 (2019) by 13 Votes in Favour, None against, as China, Russian Federation AbstainThe Security Council called today upon warring parties around the globe to implement concrete commitments to fight what many speakers described…

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Security Council Adopts Resolution Outlining Means to Ensure Robust Support for African Union Peace Operations, End Conflict on Continent

The Security Council adopted a resolution today that outlines steps leading towards the goal of ending conflict in Africa through enhanced international cooperation and partnership as well as robust support for peace operations led by the African Union…

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Venezuela on the brink, WhatsApping hate, and a Davos bright spot: The Cheat Sheet

IRIN editors give their weekly take on humanitarian news, trends, and developments from around the globe.

On our radar
What next in Venezuela?

The crisis in Venezuela has bubbled away for months, demanding media attention only when protests flare or&…

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Text adopted – Human rights in the world 2012 and EU policy on the matter – P7_TA(2013)0575 – Wednesday, 11 December 2013 – Strasbourg – Final edition

The European Parliament,
–  having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and other UN human rights treaties and instruments,
–  having regard to the United Nations Millennium Declaration of 8 Septemb…

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General Assembly Adopts 4 Resolutions Aimed at Strengthening Coordination of Humanitarian, Disaster Relief Assistance

Speaker Notes Crises Now Last Longer, Majority Being Man-MadeThe General Assembly today adopted four resolutions on coordinating humanitarian and disaster relief aid, as Member States echoed concerns that global crises and attacks on humanitarian perso…

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General Assembly Adopts 4 Resolutions Aimed at Strengthening Coordination of Humanitarian, Disaster Relief Assistance

Speaker Notes Crises Now Last Longer, Majority Being Man-MadeThe General Assembly today adopted four resolutions on coordinating humanitarian and disaster relief aid, as Member States echoed concerns that global crises and attacks on humanitarian perso…

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Keynote Speaker Cautions against Those Using Images of Migrants to Stir Fear, as Delegates Take Part in Final Interactive Dialogue

MARRAKECH, Morocco, 11 December — With a far-reaching Global Compact on Migration now adopted by a majority of countries, it is up to Governments — in partnership with civil society groups, business leaders and migrants themselves — t…

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Angry Iraqis, fed-up Nicaraguans, and a Mosul blooper: The Cheat Sheet

Every Friday, IRIN’s team of specialist editors offers a global round-up of humanitarian trends and developments.

On our radar:
Latin America’s new exodus

We’ve been banging the IRIN news drum regularly about Venezuela’s meltd…

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Spanning 116 States, World’s Five Nuclear Weapon Free Zones Must Use Political Capital to Advance Common Disarmament Goals, Speakers Tell First Committee

Casting a spotlight on regional efforts to advance common disarmament goals, delegates in the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) addressed the current and potential contribution of nuclear‑weapon‑free zones to glo…

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Spanning 116 States, World’s Five Nuclear Weapon Free Zones Must Use Political Capital to Advance Common Disarmament Goals, Speakers Tell First Committee

Casting a spotlight on regional efforts to advance common disarmament goals, delegates in the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) addressed the current and potential contribution of nuclear‑weapon‑free zones to glo…

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International Treaty Framework Is Foundation of Rules-Based Order, Speakers Tell Sixth Committee, Calling for Review, Modernization

Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism, Criminal Accountability of Officials, Experts on Mission Debates ConcludesIncreasing the efficiency of the registration process for treaties will contribute to an improved international treaty framewo…

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Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.**General Assembly

The Secretary-General will speak at the opening of the seventy-third session of the General …

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Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General.**ItalyA short while ago in Rome, the Secretary-General delivered the opening remarks at the Ministerial meeting of the Inter…

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Condemning Attacks on Aid Efforts, General Assembly Adopts Package of Texts, One Urging States to Better Protect Humanitarian Workers, Respect International Law

The General Assembly today adopted seven draft resolutions, among them texts on credentials, the culture of peace and on strengthening the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance.Condemning in the strongest possible terms the a…

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General Assembly Adopts 38 Resolutions, 2 Decisions from Fourth Committee, Including Texts on Decolonization, Israeli‑Palestinian Issues

Upon the recommendation of its Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization), the General Assembly adopted 38 resolutions and two decisions today, on issues including decolonization and the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict.Among the 22 …

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Concerns Aired about Syria Envoy Office, Adviser on Genocide Prevention, as Fifth Committee Examines Budgets for Special Political Missions

Delegates Also Approve Draft Resolutions on Activities of Internal Oversight Services Office, United Nations 2018-19 Meetings Calendar

As the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) today examined the recommended 2018 budgets for special political missions and the assistance mission in Iraq, one delegate objected to aspects of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide’s activities, while another was concerned by sharp increases in the number of staff at the Office of the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Syria.

Bettina Tucci Bartsiotas, Assistant Secretary-General and Controller of the United Nations, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the proposed 2018 budgets for 10 special and personal envoys, advisers and representative of the Secretary-General, which totalled $50 million.

Presenting a separate report on the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), she said 2018 requirements were estimated at $111 million. Changes in UNAMI’s proposed budget included the establishment of a Women’s Protection Unit and of an office in Mosul following that city’s liberation from Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), she said.

Carlos Ruiz Massieu, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), introduced that entity’s related reports, and recommended that the General Assembly approve the Secretary-General’s requested resources for the missions in 2018, subject to the Advisory Committee’s observations and recommendations.

Cuba’s representative disagreed with the Secretary-General’s proposal to include activities and results related to the concept of responsibility to protect, specifically under the proposal relating to the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide.  The General Assembly had not specifically approved a definition on the principle of responsibility to protect, she said, presenting serious concerns, particularly for small and developing countries, and creating an issue that could be easily manipulated for political purposes.

Syria’s representative, referring to the report’s discussion of the Office of the Special Envoy for Syria, welcomed the fact that for the first time, it mentioned the need to suppress and prevent terrorist acts by ISIL/Da’esh and the Al-Nusrah Front.  However, he was concerned about the Secretary-General’s recommendation to sharply increase the number of staff in Damascus, Geneva and New York.  Current staff numbers were sufficient for the Office to carry out its mission and nothing justified increasing them considerably in all categories in Damascus, given recent victories by the Syrian Arab Army and its friends in the fight against terrorism, he stressed.

Iraq’s delegate, expressing gratitude for UNAMI’s support, called for a meticulous review of the 2018 funding proposals lest they undermine the Mission’s work and priorities.  His Government welcomed the ACABQ’s recommendations that the Secretary-General should spare no effort in promoting the conversion of international posts in UNAMI to domestic posts.

The Committee also took up the Secretary-General’s report on revised estimates resulting from resolutions and decisions adopted in 2017 by the Economic and Social Council.  Presenting that report, Ms. Bartsiotas said only one Council decision gave rise to additional budgetary requirements, amounting to $247,200, in relation to preparations for the sixty‑second session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in 2019.  Mr. Ruiz presented ACABQ’s corresponding report.

In other business, the Committee, acting without a vote, approved two draft resolutions.  One text would have the General Assembly take note of the report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services and welcome its efforts to promote the Organization’s zero tolerance approach to fraud and corruption.  By the same draft, the Assembly would also endorse observations, comments, and recommendations made by the Independent Audit Advisory Committee.

Through the second text, the Assembly would approve the draft biennial calendar of United Nations conferences and meetings in 2018 and 2019, as submitted by the Committee on Conference.  It would emphasize the paramount importance of the quality of the United Nations six official languages in the area of documentation and publications, welcome the modernization of the Official Document System and request the Secretary-General to continue efforts to attract more language professionals to the Organization.

Speaking at the end of the meeting, Michel Tommo Monthé (Cameroon), Fifth Committee Chair, noted that the Committee would be dealing with larger and more complex items upon its return from the Thanksgiving holiday.  He encouraged delegations to show resolve, speed, flexibility, pragmatism and a sense of camaraderie as they strove to complete their work.

Also speaking today was the representative of Ecuador (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China).

The Fifth Committee will meet again at a date and time to be announced in the Journal.

Special Political Missions

BETTINA TUCCI BARTSIOTAS, Assistant Secretary-General and Controller of the United Nations, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on proposed budgets for 2018 in respect of special political missions, good offices and other political initiatives authorized by the General Assembly and/or the Security Council under thematic cluster I and the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) (documents A/72/371/Add.1 and Add.5).  The proposed resources for 2018 for the 10 missions presented under thematic cluster I totalled $50 million, down $1.1 million from approved resources for 2017 due to reduced operating costs, mainly under the Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General (Burundi) and the Office of the Special Envoy for the Great Lakes region, she said.  For UNAMI, the proposed resource requirements for 2018 amounted to $111 million, a net decrease of $6.5 million from approved resources in 2017, due mainly to a proposed net reduction of 15 civilian positions and decreased operational costs.  Changes in UNAMI’s proposed budget include the establishment of a Women’s Protection Unit and of an office in Mosul following that city’s liberation from Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh).

[The 10 special political missions included under thematic cluster I comprised the Office of the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Cyprus, the Office of the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide, the Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General for Western Sahara, the Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the implementation of Security Council resolution 1559 (2004), the United Nations Representative to the Geneva International Discussions, the Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria, the Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Sudan and South Sudan, the Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Great Lakes Region, the Office of the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Yemen and the Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General (Burundi).]

She then introduced the Secretary-General’s report on revised estimates resulting from resolutions and decisions adopted by the Economic and Social Council during its 2017 session (document A/72/398), noting that, during its 2017 session, the Council adopted one resolution and two decisions with resource implications.  Of those, only decision 2017/241 gave rise to additional budgetary requirements, amounting to $247,200, thus requiring an additional appropriation.   She explained that those resources would enable enhanced technical and substantive support to the sixty-second session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in 2019.

CARLOS RUIZ MASSIEU, Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), introduced the Advisory Committee’s corresponding reports on special missions and UNAMI (documents A/72/7/Add.11 and A/72/7/Add.15).  On the former, he said the ACABQ recommended approval of the resources proposed by the Secretary-General, subject to the recommendations contained in paragraphs 25 and 41 of the report.  He added that the Advisory Committee’s comments and recommendations on cross-cutting issues, including official travel, would be contained in its main report.  On the latter, he said that, pending the outcome of an external independent assessment and any Security Council decision, the Mission’s current planning assumptions might not reflect actual resource requirements for the period from 1 January to 31 December 2018.  The ACABQ recommended that any revised resource requirements should be submitted to the General Assembly at the appropriate time.  For the 1 January to 30 June 2018 period, the Advisory Committee recommended that the Assembly authorize the Secretary-General to enter into commitments of up to $50 million, he said, adding that UNAMI’s overall requirements needed to be refined, including with respect to the establishment of new posts and operational requirements.

He went ono to introduce the Advisory Committee’s report on the revised estimates resulting from ECOSOC resolutions and decisions during 2017 (document A/72/7/Add.22), noting that its budgetary implications would give rise to total requirements of $288,700, of which $2,500 related to the biennium 2016-2017 programme budget and $286,200 to the biennium 2018-2019 budget.  He said the ACABQ did not object to the Secretary-General’s approach to accommodate the proposed additional requirements of $39,000 within the proposed 2018-2019 proposed programme budget and $2,500 within the resources approved for the biennium 2016‑2017.  He added that the Advisory Committee recommended approval of the remaining amount of $247,000 under section 16, International drug control, crime and terrorism prevention and criminal justice, as a charge against the contingency fund for 2018-2019.

AMÉRICA LOURDES PEREIRA SOTOMAYOR (Ecuador), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, noted that the additional budgetary requirements resulting from resolutions and decisions adopted by the Economic and Social Council during its 2017 session were estimated at $288,700, including $247,200 related to preparations for the sixty-second session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in 2019 as set out in decision 2017/241, which would be charged against the biennium 2018-2019 contingency fund.  The Group emphasized that the Advisory Committee noted that the approved level of the biennium 2018-2019 contingency fund was $40.5 million, and the proposed budget implications or revised estimates amounted to $25.7 million.  She said the Advisory Committee also noted that, if approved in full, the remaining balance of the contingency fund for that period would be $14.8 million.  The Group would seek more information on that topic during informal consultations.

The $39,000 requirement resulting from resolution 2017/26, which extended the mandate of the Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti, was proposed to be accommodated within the proposed 2018-2019 programme budget, she said.  Moreover, the $2,500 requirement resulting from decision 2017/2014 related to the appointment of an additional member of the Advisory Group would be absorbed within the 2016-2017 programme budget.  In that context, she recalled that the Advisory Group’s mandate had been extended so that it could closely follow and advise on Haiti’s long-term development strategy in order to promote its socioeconomic recovery, reconstruction and stability, building upon the Strategic Plan for the Development of Haiti.  Therefore, the Group supported the provision of the required resources to finance the resolutions and decisions adopted by the Economic and Social Council at its 2017 session.

ANA SILVIA RODRÍGUEZ ABASCAL (Cuba), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, said that financing the special political missions through the regular budget was an unsustainable practice.  Such missions should be financed in the same way as peacekeeping operations.  It was striking that the level of resources allocated to such missions amounted to more than 20 per cent of the regular budget, proof an in imbalance in the resources allocated to different priorities established by the General Assembly.  On the Secretary-General’s report on Special and Personal Envoys and Special Advisers, she said Cuba did not agree with the proposal to include activities and results related to the concept of responsibility to protect, specifically under the proposal relating to the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide.  The appointment of a Special Adviser on the responsibility to protect was a deviation from the letter and spirit of operative paragraphs 138 and 139 of General Assembly resolution 60/1.

Recalling that, in paragraph 2 of General Assembly resolution 63/308, that body had decided to “keep the responsibility to protect under review”, she noted that no formal intergovernmental debates or reviews had been developed in that regard.  As such, the General Assembly had not specifically approved a definition on the principle of responsibility to protect, which continued to present serious concerns, particularly for small and developing countries and was an issue that could be easily manipulated for political purposes.  Under its aegis, international law, State sovereignty and its responsibility for the welfare of its population had been undermined.  All those reasons motivated Cuba to oppose the concept, as well as the creation and maintenance of the post of Special Adviser in that regard.  However, that position should not be interpreted as a rejection of the work of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, whose functions had Cuba’s full support.

MOHANAD ALI OMRAN AL-MUSAWI (Iraq), expressing gratitude for the support provided by UNAMI, said funding was essential to the effective delivery of its mandate, and its financial resources should be scaled up accordingly.  He noted that its proposed resource requirements from 1 January to 31 December 2018 totalled $111 million, an estimate that was $6 million less than last year’s budget.  He called for a meticulous review of the 2018 assessments, because they might undermine UNAMI efforts and priorities.  Furthermore, his Government welcomed recommendations from the ACABQ that the Secretary-General should spare no effort in promoting the conversion of international posts in UNAMI to domestic posts.

Emphasizing that the report should maintain its financial and administrative nature with no political undertones, he said the discussion of such undertones in the Fifth Committee was “untoward”.  He noted that paragraph 18 of the report contained erroneous implications about the situation in Iraq’s liberated areas where the law was now enforced.  Iraqi authorities had taken note of the independent auditing team as per Security Council resolution 2367 (2017) and would study its recommendations.  His Government looked forward to working together with UNAMI to provide relief aid to Iraqis who had been displaced in the aftermath of the atrocities committed by ISIL/Da’esh.  It would also work closely with the United Nations country team for the regional response to the Syrian refugee crisis.

AMMAR AWAD (Syria) referred to the report’s discussion of the Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria, saying his delegation welcomed the fact that for the first time, it mentioned the need to suppress and prevent terrorist acts by Da’esh and the Al-Nusrah Front.  However, the authors had continued to use the term “armed group” rather than “armed terrorist group”, he said, asking the Secretary-General to correct that error.  He also asked that the Secretary-General’s report refer to the situation in Syria as a crisis, not a conflict.  He requested that a reference in the report to the League of Arab States be deleted, saying that the Special Envoy’s authority came only from the United Nations.  He also expressed his delegation’s reservations regarding contacts between the Office of the Special Envoy and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and between that Office and another organization, emphasizing in the latter instance that the Special Envoy had no mandate to contact another peacekeeping operation operating under a mandate limited to the Zone of Separation.

His delegation also had reservations about a sharp increase in staff numbers proposed by the Secretary-General in Damascus, Geneva and New York, he said.  Current staff numbers were sufficient for the Office to carry out its mission.  Nothing justified a considerable increase of staff in all categories in Damascus, given recent victories by the Syrian Arab Army and its friends in the fight against terrorism.  He went on to say that the success of any political process in Syria would require cooperation and coordination with the Syrian Government at all levels.  He also underscored the Government’s commitment to the Astana and Geneva negotiations.

Activities of Office of Internal Oversight Services

The Fifth Committee then considered a draft resolution on the activities of the Office of Internal Oversight Services and the Independent Audit Advisory Committee (document A/C.5/72/L.5) following deliberations on their activities at the Fifth Committee’s second formal meeting on 5 October 2017.

By the terms of the draft, the General Assembly, reaffirming the Office’s operational independence, and taking note of its report, would request the Secretary-General to continue to promote effective coordination and collaboration with regard to the audit, evaluation and investigation functions of the Office; to ensure that resolutions pertaining to the Office’s work be brought to the attention of the relevant managers; and to ensure full implementation of its accepted recommendations.

The Assembly would go on to welcome the Office’s efforts to promote the Organization’s zero tolerance approach to fraud and corruption, and encourage it to consider calls to expand the reporting and recording of all forms of misconduct as part of renewed efforts to strengthen and professionalize the investigations function of the United Nations system.

It would also note progress made by the Office in reducing the average time taken to complete investigations and in reducing the number of vacant posts, and ask the Secretary-General to continue making every effort to fill remaining vacant posts, particularly in the Investigations Division and in the field.

Noting the Fifth Committee’s review of the report of the Independent Audit Advisory Committee for the year-long period between 1 August 2016 and 31 July 2017, the Assembly would, by the same text, endorse the observations, comments, and recommendations contained in paragraphs 17, 20, 23, 27, 30, 31, 33, 39, 43, 47, 55, 58, 60, 63, 66, 74, 79, 82, 86, 92, 93, 94, 98 and 102 of the report.  In addition, the Assembly would note with appreciation the reports of the Joint Inspection Unit on the state of the internal audit function in the United Nations system and on donor-led assessments of the United Nations system organizations, as well as the related notes by the Secretary-General transmitting his comments and those of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination thereon.

The text was approved without a vote.

Pattern of Conferences

Next, the Committee took up a text on the pattern of conferences (document A/C.5/72/L.6), by which the Assembly would approve the draft biennial calendar of United Nations conferences and meetings for 2018 and 2019, as submitted by the Committee on Conferences, taking into account its observations and subject to provisions of the present text.  It would authorize the Committee on Conferences to make any adjustments to that calendar that might become necessary as a result of actions and decisions made by the Assembly at its seventy-second session.  It would note with satisfaction that the Secretariat had taken into account Assembly resolutions concerning Orthodox Good Friday, Eid al‑Fitr and Eid‑al‑Adha, and request all intergovernmental bodies observe those decisions when planning their meetings.  It would moreover request the Secretary-General to ensure that any modifications to the calendar of conferences and meetings be implemented strictly in accordance with the mandate of the Committee on Conferences and other relevant Assembly resolutions.

Also by the text, the Assembly would note that the overall utilization factor at the four main duty stations in 2016 was 80 per cent, unchanged from 2015 and 2014, thus meeting the benchmark of 80 per cent.  It would urge secretariats and bureaux of bodies that underutilized their conference-servicing resources to work more closely with the Department of General Assembly and Conference Management and to consider changes to their programmes of work.  Moreover, it would urge those intergovernmental bodies with average utilization rates below the 80 per cent benchmark to take that factor into account when planning their future sessions.

In the area of documentation and publications, the Assembly would emphasize the paramount importance of the equality of the six official languages and of multilingualism, and ask the Secretary-General to redouble efforts to ensure full parity in line with Assembly resolution 69/324.  Noting with concern that only 70 per cent of author departments had reached the 90 per cent compliance rate for submitting on time their reports to the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management, the Assembly would again ask the Secretary-General to enforce the slotting system more rigorously.

While welcoming the modernization of the Official Document System, including the introduction of a portable version, and its accessibility in all six official languages, the Assembly would ask the Department of Public Information to present a proposal for the digitization of important older United Nations documents for consideration by the Committee on Information no later than the main part of the seventy-third session.  Additionally, the Assembly would express concern that the anticipated lengthy digitization project may jeopardize the retention of historical knowledge and information in view of the delicate state and risk of breakage of many of the related documents.

Turning to matters related to language services, the Assembly, noting that the pool of language professionals at duty stations was uneven in terms of language combinations, would ask the Secretary-General to continue efforts to develop recruitment, subcontracting and outreach policies.  It would also note the development of statistical machine translations systems such as Tapta4UN and eLUNa and ask the Secretary-General to report on updates about those systems to the Assembly at its seventy-third session.

The text was approved without a vote.

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Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

**Philippines

Good afternoon.  The Secretary-General as you know is in the Philippines today, where he addressed the ninth Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)‑UN Summit.  He called on ASEAN’s leaders to strengthen resilience and reduce the risk posed by climate change and other natural disasters, and he commended the 4,500 military personnel, police and civilians from eight ASEAN countries who are serving in UN peacekeeping missions around the world.

The Secretary-General emphasized the importance of regional cooperation against terrorism and violent extremism, as well as by the recent conflict in Marawi in the Philippines.  He said the United Nations stands ready to provide technical support and assistance to ASEAN countries in their efforts to counter terrorism and violent extremism, and to combat transnational crimes, drugs and people trafficking, with policies able to protect their civilians with effective law enforcement and respect for human rights.

He also said the dramatic movement of hundreds of thousands of refugees from Myanmar to Bangladesh is a worrying escalation in a protracted tragedy and a potential source of instability in the region.  Beyond the end of the violence, he reiterated his call for unhindered humanitarian access to affected communities; and the right to safe, voluntary and dignified return of those who fled to their places of origin.

The Secretary-General also noted that sustainable and inclusive development is the best way to prevent conflict and violent extremism.  As this region powers its way to becoming the world’s fourth largest economy by 2050, we look forward to including millions more in the shared benefits of prosperity, he said.

Today in Manila, he also held a series of bilateral meetings with the Prime Ministers of Laos and Viet Nam, as well as with the President of Indonesia.  And we have readouts of those, and as we previously announced, the Secretary-General will continue his meetings tomorrow before flying overnight to Bonn to attend the 23rd Conference of Parties (COP23).

**Yemen

Turning to Yemen, our humanitarian colleagues tell us that the impact of the blockade is leading to severe shortages of commercial and aid materials reaching the country.

The entire population of Yemen is dependent on food, fuel and medicine imports, primarily through seaports.  More than 17 million Yemenis — or more than two thirds of the population — are already food insecure.

Without the import of critical commodities through a lifting of the blockade on all ports, including Hudaydah and Saleef, the situation will deteriorate further.  And as a point of reference, the World Food Programme (WFP) tells us that there are 111 days until the current stocks of rice run out and 97 days until the current stocks of wheat run out.

More than two thirds of people in need and more than 80 per cent of all cholera cases are located in the areas closest to Hudaydah and Saleef ports.

Only the al Wadea land crossing in Hadramaut governorate and the Aden seaport are open to commercial imports.  However, the port at Aden does not have the capacity for commercial and humanitarian cargo, and unless the Red Sea ports in Hudaydah and Saleef are opened immediately, the UN will not be able to feed 7 million people every month.

**Central African Republic

The Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) today announced the appointment of Brigadier-General (retired) Fernand Marcel Amoussou (Benin) to lead an independent special investigation into a number of recent incidents in the south‑east of the Central African Republic that occurred from 1 May and 31 August 2017.

The investigation will look into attacks against civilians by armed groups that occurred in close proximity to a UN Mission (MINUSCA) presence in Haute-Kotto, Basse-Kotto, Mbomou, and Haut-Mbomou prefectures, as well as the Mission’s response to these incidents.

DPKO is launching this special investigation in light of recent deterioration of the security situation in the south‑east of the country and with a view of improving the Mission’s ability to prevent violence and protect civilians under imminent threat within its capabilities and areas of deployment.  The investigation will make recommendations to address any shortcomings, if applicable, and on the Mission’s overall performance with regard to the protection of civilians, in the context of the Mission’s mandate renewal.

The investigation team will deploy to the Central African Republic from 14 to 28 November, that is starting tomorrow, and a final report will then be presented to the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean‑Pierre Lacroix, and the findings of which will be made public.

Just as a note, retired General Fernand Marcel Amoussou had been the Force Commander of the UN Mission in Cote d’Ivoire (UNOCI) from 2006‑2010.

**Peacekeeping

Staying on the subject of peacekeeping, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean‑Pierre Lacroix and Under-Secretary-General for Field Support Atul Khare will be participating in the UN Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial meeting that begins in Vancouver tomorrow.  Mr. Lacroix will be representing the Secretary-General.  Defence ministers and senior officials from more than 80 countries and organizations will attend this two‑day event to discuss the challenges we face in the field, our current and emerging capability needs and how we can work together with Member States to find solutions.

Among the highlights of this conference is a side event on Mali, which will take place tomorrow on the critical capability gaps that the UN Mission in the country (MINUSMA) is facing and the generation of those key resources.  The main day of the conference, Wednesday, kicks off with a session to encourage Member States to mobilize the women, peace, and security agenda within their own military.  A female UN peacekeeper will also be honoured with the UN Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award.  Member States will have an opportunity to announce their pledges for UN peacekeeping on Wednesday.  We’ll be providing you with daily updates from that Conference.

**Iran/Iraq

You will have seen the statement we issued last night expressing the Secretary-General’s sadness at the loss of life and damage following the earthquake that struck the border region of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Iraq on Sunday evening.  He conveys his condolences to the bereaved families and to the Governments and people of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Iraq.  He wishes those injured a speedy recovery.

The Secretary-General commended the local response efforts underway.  The UN stands ready to assist if required.

The Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, Lise Grande, said humanitarians’ priority right now is to help local authorities respond as quickly as possible, and our country team in Iran has also been reaching out to local authorities.

This morning, the World Health Organization (WHO) sent an immediate response team and two ambulances to Sulaymaniyah Hospital, the primary hospital in the Iraqi side of the area, along with trauma and surgical kits, and an assessment team has arrived in Darbandikhan, one of the worst-hit areas.

Upon request of the Iraqi Government, a UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team is also being dispatched from Geneva.  This is a highly specialized team that will help to assess conditions and coordinate the response.

**Syria

Turning to Syria, a UN/International Committee of the Red Cross/Syrian Arab Red Crescent inter‑agency convoy delivered life-saving multisectoral assistance, including food, nutrition and health items for [21,500] of the estimated 90,000 people in need in Duma city in besieged East Ghouta of rural Damascus.  The area was last reached with inter‑agency humanitarian assistance on 17 August of this year.

Meanwhile, we are concerned about the protection and well-being of civilians in Atareb, rural Aleppo, following reports of infighting between different non‑state armed groups over the past five [days].

Shelling on populated cities and towns in the area is affecting civilian movement, including commercial activities, and it has interrupted humanitarian activities in the area due to the clashes and road blocks.  Furthermore, schools have reportedly suspended classes.

**Climate Change

Over the weekend in Bonn, at the Climate Change Conference, countries, businesses and civil society organizations showcased examples of climate action on various themes including oceans and forests.  Today they will be focusing on financing for climate action.

Some of the commitments that have been made include an Ecuadorean initiative to reduce 15 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions in the forest sector; a commitment to deforestation-free commodities by Walmart; a new policy by the company Mars Incorporated to reduce their carbon footprint 27 per cent by 2025 and 67 per cent by 2050 through addressing deforestation throughout their corporate value chain; as well as the Gabon National Park Service’s efforts to combat illegal logging.

In addition, the Fiji Presidency of the COP announced an agreement on a Gender Action Plan, highlighting the role of women in climate action, which is subject to adoption at the end of the Conference.  More information on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) website.

**Human Rights

I just want to flag that the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al Hussein, will be heading to El Salvador from 15 to 16 November.  That’s the first ever visit by a High Commissioner for Human Rights.

He will hold talks with the President, Foreign Minister, Minister of Justice and Public Security, and other legislators.

The High Commissioner will also meet civil society representatives and human right defenders, and he will attend a ceremony to mark the 28th anniversary of the murders of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter by Government soldiers.

He will then go on to Guatemala for a two-day visit, from 17 to 18 November.  There he is expected to meet with the presidents of the Supreme Court of Justice and Constitutional Court, the Foreign Minister, and others.  He is also scheduled to meet with human rights defenders, victims and journalists.

**Child Labour

Our colleagues at the International Labour Organization (ILO) will host the fourth Global Conference on the Sustained Eradication of Child Labour starting tomorrow in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  The Conference will address the consolidation of the global commitment to eradicate this practice and government, employer and worker’s representatives will be discussing proposals to develop policies to ensure education for all children and a seamless transition to the labour market.

**Antibiotics

And I also want to flag that this week is Antibiotic Awareness Week which kicks off today with the theme ‘Learn how to handle antibiotics with care’. As you know, the development of resistance is a big issue.  You can find more information about it on the World Health Organization’s website.

**Press Briefings

Following my briefing, Brenden Varma will be here to brief you.

Shortly after, at 1 p.m., Ambassador Abdallah Y. Al‑Mouallimi, Permanent Representative of Saudi Arabia to the United Nations, will be briefing you.

Then at 2:30 p.m., there will be a briefing entitled “2018 Winter Olympics in the Republic of Korea and the General Assembly resolution Building a peaceful and better world through sport and Olympic ideal and its adoption”.

And at 3:15 p.m., Ambassador Sacha Sergio Llorentty Solíz, Permanent Representative of the Plurinational State of Bolivia to the United Nations, will be at the Security Council stakeout for you.  That’s why he will be there.

**Questions and Answers

I will now take your questions.  Mr. Bays?

Question:  Follow‑up question on the statement you read on Yemen.  Saudi Arabia has said it’s going to ease its blockade, but so far, it’s announcing that… or nothing’s happened yet, but the areas that it’s going to allow aid to go to are areas its Coalition controls, whereas there’s no aid going to be allowed for now to the areas the Houthis control.  How concerned are you about this, given the grim warning from Mr. [Mark] Lowcock last week?

Spokesman:  Well, you know, obviously, we’ve taken note of the Saudi announcement regarding the humanitarian assistance.  For the Secretary‑General, he will continue to insist once more on full and unimpeded access for humanitarian aid to the people of Yemen as well as a free movement in and out of Yemen for humanitarian workers.  I would also add, because I think there were some questions raised, that the Secretary‑General has categorically condemned the attack on Riyadh last week with the missiles, as he does with all indiscriminate attacks on civilians.  You know, obviously, we have to wait to see what actually comes into being.  What is important for us, as I said, is that the ports that we need access to are the ones where the humanitarian needs are the greatest, and that includes Hudaydah and Saleef seaports.  Obviously, we welcome the opening of other ports, but those are the ones that we need.  You don’t want to get into a situation where the transport of aid is made more complicated by having to cross combat lines and front lines.  We see that in… we see the challenges that poses in Syria, and I think, for here, we have the needs that we have.  The hum… Yemeni people have the needs that we’ve talked about at length here, and we need to meet them.  Yes, sir?

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  You mentioned that the Secretary‑General condemns this attack on Riyadh, which was intercepted… the rockets was intercepted.  And, according to the Saudi sources, it did not result in any damages.  However, hardly any day passes in Yemen without a massacre targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure.  Does the Secretary‑General condemn each and every one of these massacres?

Spokesman:  Nizar, I think you’ve been at almost every one of my briefings.  I think you will have heard each and every condemnation on attacks of… on civilians and civilian infrastructure that takes place in Yemen.  I think the fact that we have called those out and we have condemned those is really a fairly easy fact to check.

Question:  Does the Secretary‑General calls for any particular action with regard… because these have been repeated almost on daily basis for 2 1/2 years.

Spokesman:  We call… we have been calling, we continue to call for a halt to the fighting.  We have been calling, we continue to call for a recommitment to the political talks.  Civilians and civilian infrastructure, wherever they are, should not be targeted, regardless of who they are, and we’ve condemned all of those attacks.

Question:  Well, should they be referred, for example, to ICC (International Criminal Court) for…

Spokesman:  The International Criminal Court is an independent body.  What we know is that these attacks need to stop, and our focus right now is on getting the humanitarian aid.  I mean, I gave you the… you know, we have a countdown.  I mean, according to my colleagues at UF… WFP, 111 days until the wheat… the rice runs out, 97 until the wheat runs out.  What we’re already seeing is a spike in food prices.  We’re seeing a spike in fuel prices.  The supplies of fuel, the supplies of diesel are not endless.  Those two are running low.  And I don’t think anyone wants to contemplate what happens when the diesel runs out.  Trucks don’t move.  Water pumps don’t work.  Electrical generators don’t work.  Mr. Lee.  Sorry.  Then… go ahead.

Question:  Sure.  I wanted to…  I’ve been looking closely at this Environmental Investigation Agency report about, among other things, the Deputy Secretary‑General and her role in signing thousands of certificates for rosewood.  So, I wanted to ask you a couple of questions.  They… they… just because I heard… I… I… I’ve heard the statement that the Secretary‑General stands behind her, and I wonder, first of all, can you say has he read the whole report?

Spokesman:  The Secretary‑General is fully aware of the report and the accusations therein.

Question:  Okay.  So I guess my… my question is, they quote directly a… a… a… a member of the… the Wood Experts Association, saying that Chinese businessmen travel to Abuja and paid a minister.  They didn’t say who the minister is.  But so he’s very clear that that is… was… is the Deputy Secretary‑General aware of any payments by Chinese businessmen to Nigerian officials involving the export of this rosewood?

Spokesman:  Look, what the Deputy Secretary‑General is very clear on, she has never taken any sort of illicit money, and she rejects categorically the accusations herein… to the report.  As for any other questions having to do with the functioning of the Federal Government of Nigeria, I would encourage you to ask the Nigerian Government.

Question:  Can you see why signing of thousands of certificates right before she came to the UN seems strange?  Do you at least acknowledge that?  And I have another question.  Because in the report, they actually say that much of this wood came from Cameroon.  So, I want to ask you directly.  When she signed the certificates, what was her understanding of where the… the wood at issue… because she definitely acknowledges signing the certificates and that the wood… there’s some dispute of when it left Nigerian shores.

Spokesman:  She… I think I would refer you to the statement that we issued.  She categorically refutes any claims that she signed illicit or any forged documents.  She only dealt with issues having to do with wood coming from Nigeria.

Question:  I guess my question is this, is that I see… I’ve seen… she did… she did an interview, I guess, over the weekend with something called the cable in Nigeria.  And she said that she’s been asked by… by Chinese… a Chinese journalist about the timing between the certificates and the wood leaving.  And so I’m just wondering, what is the… what is the procedure to actually get direct answers to these questions?  Is she fielding questions by phone from Chinese journalists?  Do we write to you?… How does it work?

Spokesman:  First of all, I mean, I don’t think it is Spokesman‑like ethics to tell another journalist what contacts others are having.  So, that’s not what I would get into.  I would refer you to the statement that I read out last week, which I think covers your answers.  If you have more questions, you can provide them.  Yes, ma’am.  Sorry and… I’m jumping around here.  Go ahead and then I’ll come to you.

Question:  Stéphane, just to get back to the… to Yemen, the Saudi statement yesterday mentioned an invitation to the UN to send experts to Riyadh.  Have you received this…?

Spokesman:  Sure, we’re aware of the invitation, and we’re taking a look at it.  Evelyn?

Question:  Yes.  Also on Yemen, which are the Red Sea ports?  Is it Hudaydah or that… that WFP and others say may need?

Spokesman:  It’s the two that I just read out, Hudaydah and Al Saleef.  Yes?

Question:  Do you have new information on Lebanese Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, whether he’s under house arrest or not?

Spokesman:  No, we have no way to confirm the nature of his presence in Saudi Arabia, whether he’s even in Saudi Arabia.  Our concern at the situation… the political situation in Lebanon continues.  I think everybody would benefit from some clarity.  Yes, sir?

Question:  Today, Mr. [Nickolay] Mladenov issued a statement in which he said the militants in Gaza risk a dangerous escalation.  He said their reckless actions and statements.  So what does he mean by “reckless actions”?  And two of the factions issued a strong statement against this statement, accusing Mladenov of being biased, covering for the Israeli occupation.  He… he’s silent when 12 Palestinians were killed, but when a Palestinian faction said they will take revenge of this action of Israel, he issued this strong… strong statement, calling it reckless actions and…

Spokesman:  Okay.  What is… Abdelhamid, with all due respect, what is the question?

Question:  The question, do you have any comment on the statement issued by two militants against… accusing him of being biased?

Spokesman:  I think Mr. Mladenov issued a… you know, I think if we showed you the number of times we also get complaints from the Israeli side, I think no one can accuse Mr.  Mladenov of being biased.  I think it comes… we get complaints from Palestinians.  We get complaints from Israelis about Mr. Mladenov’s action.  Mr. Mladenov speaks when he feels it is appropriate for him to speak.  What we do not want to see is an escalation in violence.  I think the agreement to reassert the authority of the Palestinian Authority in Gaza is an important one, and everything should be done to support that.

Question:  But he’s condemning action.  This is my question also.  I mean to condemn the reckless statement, one thing, but to condemn the reckless actions, there was no actions on the part of the Palestinian factions.

Spokesman:  I will leave my answer as already spoken.  Yes, sir?

Question:  Sure.  I want to ask you about another report, the Small Arms Survey Report.  Highly critical of UN peacekeeping for losing or not keeping track of weapons.  They say it could basically arm a whole militia.  But one of the issues seems to be when issue… when arms are collected through cordon and search or other ones.  Does the UN… does the UN acknowledge that there is a problem?  Do they disagree with the survey? What steps are being taken to address this?

Spokesman:  I think the… our colleagues in peacekeeping have noted the findings of the report.  They, obviously, take very seriously the performance of peacekeepers, including any loss of arms or ammunition.  You know, I think the… what’s regrettable that the report, I think, distorts some… the context as well as the figures and implies that the loss of weapons have a large impact on conflict.  I think the percentage of… the loss of weapons in peacekeeping operations are, I think, as we know, very much an exception.  The number of weapons that are lost are… is extremely small, far less than half of one per cent of the total amount of weapons and ammunition in circulation around conflict zones, such as Darfur and South Sudan.  Where the loss occurs, there are often a consequence of military operations in very challenging conditions, and they occur despite the best efforts of the troops involved.  In circumstances where a troop contributor’s poor performance is a contributory factor, the UN has done as much to improve performance, working closely with Member States on the training, skills and equipment of peacekeepers.  I think the Report itself acknowledges that, despite some shortcomings in the stockpile management and accountability of Contingent Owned Equipment, UN policies and practices are far more advanced than in many other organisations.

Question:  I wanted to ask you about one related arms collection question, which is, over the weekend, in Cameroon, in both the northwest and southwest, there was a collection apparently in light of… of… of… of not only armaments, rifles and handguns, but even hoes and cutlasses, it said, basically a total disarmament and… and… impinging on even farming work by people.  And I’m wondering, given that François Fall is… calls for a dialogue, what… is the UN aware of this?  There are written orders online that you can see telling people to turn all of these things in…

Spokesman:  I have nothing on these reports as of now.  Yes, Evelyn?

Question:  Does the SG intend to have a bilateral with the President of the Philippines?

Spokesman:  No, there’s nothing… I mean, they saw each other at the gala opening.  They shook hands, but there’s bilateral scheduled, as far as I’m aware.

Question:  There’s nothing on human rights scheduled?

Spokesman:  There’s no bilateral, as far as I’m aware.  Nizar and then Abdelhamid.

Question:  Yeah.  Mr. [António] Guterres mentioned on Friday that he is making… doing contacts with leaders in the region regarding the absence of Mr. [Saad] Hariri.  When he talks to the Saudis — and, of course, since Friday, probably he has talked to the Saudi authorities — how do they explain the freedom of Mr. Hariri to leave or remain in the country?  Do they allow him to leave at his will?

Spokesman:  I think… Nizar, I think it’s a very good question.  I would wait till 1:00 until the Saudi ambassador is here.  Abdelhamid?

Question:  Yes, Stéphane.  The BBC has uncovered details of a deal that let hundreds of IS fighters, including foreign militants, and their families escape from Raqqah, which is under the gaze of the US, British and the Kurdish groups.  What that… doesn’t that make mockery of this war on terrorism?  Do you have any statement?  Are you aware of this report?

Spokesman:  I haven’t seen the report…

Question:  It’s from BBC…

Spokesman:  I have no… I would be the last person to ever doubt the veracity of a report that you read to me.  I’m just saying I haven’t read it personally.  As to whether or not it makes a mockery of the war on terror, I think, as far as the Secretary‑General is concerned, the whole issue of counter‑terrorism is one that needs to be… look at the bigger picture, not only, obviously, the security aspects of it, but the human rights, the international law, and global development.  Thank you.

Question:  Mystery ASG (Assistant Secretary-General)?  Have you…

Spokesman:  No, no, I… it’s a good question.  I need to go and find… If I can find my mystery ASG.  I will leave you with Brenden.

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Fourth Committee Concludes Its Work, Approving 9 Middle East Related Drafts Out of 10 Submitted for Adoption by General Assembly

Concluding its work for the main part of the seventy‑second session, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) approved 10 draft resolutions today, of which 9 related to Israeli practices in the occupied Arab territories and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

The Committee approved — by a recorded vote of 160 in favour to 2 against (Israel, South Sudan), with 10 abstentions (Cameroon, Canada, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Paraguay, Solomon Islands, United States) — a draft resolution titled “Assistance to Palestine refugees” (document A/C.4/72/L.17).

By that text, the General Assembly would express grave concern at the difficult situation of Palestine refugees under occupation, in particular those in the Gaza Strip, underlining the importance of assistance and urgent reconstruction efforts there.  It would call upon all donors to continue strengthening their efforts to meet the Agency’s anticipated needs, including for recent emergency, recovery and reconstruction appeals, plans for Gaza and for regional crisis responses to the situation of Palestine refugees in Syria.

The Committee also approved — by a recorded 156 votes in favour to 7 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, South Sudan, United States), with 8 abstentions (Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Honduras, Mexico, Paraguay, Togo) — a draft titled “Persons displaced as a result of the June 1967 and subsequent hostilities” (document A/C.4/72/L.18).

By the terms of that text, the General Assembly would reaffirm the right of all persons displaced as a result of the June 1967 and subsequent hostilities to return to their homes or former places of residence.  It would further stress the need for the accelerated return of those displaced, strongly appealing to all Governments, organizations and individuals to contribute generously to UNRWA and others in that regard.

In a subsequent action, the Committee approved a draft titled “Operations of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East” (document A/C.4/72/L.19), by which the General Assembly would express deep concern about the Agency’s critical financial situation, noting that contributions had been neither predictable nor sufficient to meet its growing needs.  As such, the Assembly would stress the need for further efforts to comprehensively address the Agency’s recurrent funding shortages, while commending its measures to address the financial crisis.

However, the Assembly would, by other terms, express profound concern that despite such measures, UNRWA’s programme budget — funded primarily through voluntary contributions from Member States and intergovernmental organizations — faced persistent shortfalls that increasingly threatened the Agency’s core programmes.  Further, the Assembly would appeal to States and organizations to maintain their voluntary contributions to the Agency, as well as increase contributions where possible.

Further by the text, the Assembly would call upon donors to provide early annual voluntary contributions, less earmarking and multi‑year funding, in line with the Grand Bargain on humanitarian financing announced at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Turkey, in May 2016.  The Assembly would also voice concern about the continuing imposition of restrictions on free movement and access for UNRWA personnel, vehicles and goods, as well as the injury, harassment and intimidation of its staff.  The Committee approved that draft by a recorded vote of 160 in favour to 6 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, South Sudan, United States), with 7 abstentions (Bahamas, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Nauru, Paraguay, Solomon Islands).

The Committee went on to approve a draft titled “Palestine refugees’ properties and their revenues” (document A/C.4/71/L.20) by a recorded 158 vote of in favour to 7 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, South Sudan, United States), with 8 abstentions (Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Honduras, Mexico, Paraguay, Solomon Islands, Togo).

By that text, the General Assembly would request that the Secretary‑General take all appropriate steps to protect Arab property, assets and property rights in Israel.  Further, it would call upon Israel to render all facilities and assistance to the Secretary‑General for the resolution’s implementation and call upon all parties concerned to provide the Secretary‑General with any pertinent information concerning such property in Israel.  Moreover, the Assembly would urge the Palestinian and Israeli sides, as agreed between them, to deal with the important issue of Palestine refugees’ properties and revenues within the framework of final‑status peace negotiations.

The Committee also approved a draft resolution titled “Work of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories” (document A/C.4/72/L.21) by a recorded vote of 86 in favour to 11 against, with 75 abstentions.  By that text, the General Assembly would request the Special Committee to continue investigating Israeli policies and practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, especially violations of the Geneva Convention, and to consult with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in order to ensure safeguards for the welfare and human rights of the peoples of the occupied territories.  It would also request that the Special Committee submit regular periodic reports to the Secretary‑General regarding the current situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and to continue to investigate the treatment and status of prisoners and detainees.

The Committee then approved — by a recorded 159 votes in favour to 8 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Solomon Islands, South Sudan, United States), with 7 abstentions (Australia, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Paraguay, Togo, Vanuatu) — a draft titled “Applicability of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the other occupied Arab territories” (document A/C.4/72/L.22).

By that draft, the General Assembly would demand that Israel accept the de jure applicability of the Geneva Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and other Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967, and that it comply scrupulously with the provisions of the Convention.  Further by that text, the Assembly would call upon all High Contracting Parties to the Convention to continue to exert all efforts to ensure respect for its provisions by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

Taking up a draft titled “Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan” (document A/C.4/72/L.23), the Committee approved it by a recorded vote of 155 in favour to 8 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Solomon Islands, South Sudan, United States), with 10 abstentions (Australia, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Honduras, Malawi, Paraguay, Togo, Tuvalu, Vanuatu). 

According to that text, the General Assembly would condemn acts of violence, destruction, harassment, provocation and incitement by Israeli settlers in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  It would call upon Israel to accept the de jure applicability of the Geneva Convention and to comply with all its obligations under international law.  Moreover, the Assembly would demand that Israel comply with its legal obligations, as mentioned in the advisory opinion rendered by the International Court of Justice on 9 July 2004.

Taking up a draft titled “Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem” (document A/C.4/72/L.24), the Committee approved it by a recorded vote of 155 in favour to 9 against (Australia, Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Solomon Islands, South Sudan, United States), with 8 abstentions (Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Honduras, Paraguay, Togo, Vanuatu).

By that text, the Assembly would demand that Israel cease all practices and actions violating the human rights of the Palestinian people, including the killing and injury of civilians, the arbitrary detention and imprisonment of civilians, forced displacement, and any obstruction of humanitarian assistance, among others.  The Assembly would also demand that Israel comply fully with the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention and cease all settlement activity, construction of the wall, and any other measures aimed at altering the character, status and demographic composition of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  It would further demand that Israel comply with its legal obligations under international law, as mentioned in the 9 July, 2004, advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, and as demanded in General Assembly resolutions ES-10/15 and ES-10/13 of 21 October 2003.

The Committee went on to approve a draft titled “The occupied Syrian Golan” (document A/C.4/72/L.25) by a recorded 154 votes in favour to 2 against (Israel, South Sudan), with 17 abstentions.  By its terms, the General Assembly would call upon Israel to comply with the relevant resolutions on the occupied Syrian Golan, in particular Security Council resolution 497 (1981), by which the Council determined that Israel’s decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the occupied Syrian Golan was null and void, and without international legal effect, demanding that Israel rescind its decision.

Further by that text, the Assembly would call upon Israel to desist from changing the physical character, demographic composition, institutional structure and legal status of the occupied Syrian Golan, and to desist, in particular, from establishing settlements.  The Assembly would also call upon Israel to desist from its own citizenship and identity cards on the Syrian citizens of the occupied Syrian Golan.

In closing remarks, Fourth Committee Chair Rafael Darío Ramírez Carreño (Venezuela) noted that the Committee had approved 39 draft resolutions and 4 draft decisions.  Throughout the session, it had held 28 formal meetings, covering a wide range of issues, he added.

Also speaking today were representatives of the United States, Israel, Estonia (for the European Union), Syria and Iran, as well as an observer for the State of Palestine.

Representatives of Indonesia and Cuba presented the draft resolutions for action.

The Fourth Committee will reconvene at a date and time to be announced.

Action on Draft Resolutions

The Committee first took up a series of drafts relating to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) (documents A/72/C.4/L.17-L.20).

The representative of Indonesia introduced those drafts, saying they reflected the latest developments in the Agency’s operations, including severe and recurrent shortages in funding.  As highlighted in the Secretary‑General’s report on the Agency’s operations and consultations earlier in 2017, UNRWA was recognized as an important partner, even in the context of instability and socioeconomic deterioration in the region, noting efforts to mobilize resources and stabilize its financial situation.  Ensuring continuity in its services called urgently for predictable and sustainable funding, he emphasized, noting that the Secretary‑General had offered important proposals in that regard, including calling on States to maintain and increase their voluntary contributions, with less earmarking and multi‑year funding.  Those recommendations were reflected in the draft resolution before the Committee, he said, urging delegations to support its implementation.

The representative of Cuba then introduced five drafts on the Report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories (documents A/C.4/72/L.21-L25).  They focused on the many violations of international law, particularly international humanitarian law, committed by Israel, the occupying Power, he said, noting that the violations had been documented by the relevant United Nations organs as well as other human rights organizations.  They had been reported to the Special Committee on the basis of interviews with victims and civil society.  Unfortunately, Israel’s actions persisted, he noted, citing forced displacement and provocations, particularly in East Jerusalem, as well as the blockade of the Gaza Strip.  Israel had also persisted in illegal settlement activity, including the demolition of houses and the imposition of roadblocks, thereby undermining the viability of the two‑State approach to the Israeli‑Palestinian peace process.

The Committee then moved to take action on the UNRWA drafts.

The representative of the United States said in a general statement that his delegation opposed the drafts because they were biased against Israel and undermined trust between the two parties involved.  Member States continued to single out Israel with such texts, condemning settlement activity but not violence, he said, pointing out that the only mention of Hamas was praise of its reconciliation agreement with Fatah.  The United States would, therefore, vote against such one‑sided draft resolutions and encouraged others to do so as well.  He said that his delegation was especially concerned about drafts on such United Nations bodies as the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices, and the Division for Palestinian Rights, because they wasted limited resources without contributing to peace in the region, instead perpetuating a United Nations bias against Israel.  While the United States supported UNRWA’s work with refugees, it did not support funding the Agency from the United Nations regular budget.  That country had long been its largest donor, having already contributed more than $350 million in 2017, and being an active supporter of its attempts to secure new funding mechanisms.  He called for equal burden‑sharing among those States that cared about UNRWA, recalling that Member States expressing concern about the Agency’s funding shortfall as the Committee considered its work included those contributing only minimally to its budget.  He urged them to “match their rhetoric with action” and to provide voluntary donations.

The representative of Israel, speaking in explanation of position on all the drafts under consideration, asked whether the accusations of a regime guilty of committing heinous war crimes against its own people did anything to help the Palestinian cause.  Did false and offensive rhetoric do anything to promote dialogue and positive change?  The draft resolutions being considered today would do little to resolve the conflict in the Middle East and did nothing but pay lip service to the Committee’s mission, she said, emphasizing that they promoted a distorted picture of reality on the ground, absolved the Palestinians of any responsibility and failed to mention the positive developments achieved over the past year.  The draft on the Special Committee to investigate Israeli practices exemplified the waste of United Nations resources, she said.  As for the Temple Mount, the relative draft deliberately omitted any reference to Jewish or Christian connections to that site.  Since Israel’s founding, she noted, Palestinians had never changed their warlike attitude towards the Jewish people and they continued to reject efforts towards peace, she said, adding that they would rather demonize Israel in the Committee than work constructively to solve common problems.  Israel supported “two States for two peoples” and hoped Member States would not give the Palestinians a free pass for their one‑sided approach on that matter.  She expressed regret over the need to explain why her country would vote against the drafts since they did nothing for either party in their direct dialogue for peace and were nothing more than a political exercise.

The Committee then approved the draft resolution “Assistance to Palestine refugees” (document A/C.4/72/L.17) by a recorded vote of 160 in favour to 2 against (Israel, South Sudan), with 10 abstentions (Cameroon, Canada, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Paraguay, Solomon Islands, United States).

Taking up the draft “Persons displaced as a result of the June 1967 and subsequent hostilities” (document A/C.4/72/L.18), it approved that text by a recorded vote of 156 in favour to 7 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, South Sudan, United States), with 8 abstentions (Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Honduras, Mexico, Paraguay, Togo). 

By a subsequent recorded vote of 160 in favour to 6 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, South Sudan, United States), with 7 abstentions (Bahamas, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Nauru, Paraguay, Solomon Islands), the Committee approved the draft “Operations of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East” (document A/C.4/72/L.19).

It went on to on to approve the draft “Palestine refugees’ properties and their revenues” (document A/C.4/71/L.20) by a recorded vote of 158 in favour to 7 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, South Sudan, United States), with 8 abstentions (Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Honduras, Mexico, Paraguay, Solomon Islands, Togo).

The Committee then took up a series of resolutions relating to the report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories (documents A/C.4/72/L.21-L25).

Taking up the draft “Work of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories” (document A/C.4/72/L.21), the Committee approved it by a recorded vote of 86 in favour to 11 against, with 75 abstentions.

It then approved — by a recorded vote of 159 in favour to 8 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Solomon Islands, South Sudan, United States), with 7 abstentions (Australia, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Paraguay, Togo, Vanuatu) — the draft “Applicability of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the other Occupied Arab territories” (document A/C.4/72/L.22).

The Committee then approved the draft “Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan” (document A/C.4/72/L.23), by a recorded vote of 155 in favour to 8 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Solomon Islands, South Sudan, United States), with 10 abstentions (Australia, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Honduras, Malawi, Paraguay, Togo, Tuvalu, Vanuatu).

Taking up the draft “Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem” (document A/C.4/72/L.24), the Committee approved it by a recorded vote of 155 in favour to 9 against (Australia, Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Solomon Islands, South Sudan, United States), with 8 abstentions (Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Honduras, Paraguay, Togo, Vanuatu).

It went on to approve — by a recorded 154 votes in favour to 2 against (Israel, South Sudan), with 17 abstentions — the draft “The occupied Syrian Golan” (document A/C.4/72/L.25).

The representative of Estonia, speaking in explanation of position on behalf of the European Union, said the bloc had not found a legal qualification of the term “forced displacement” in the draft resolutions.  Furthermore, use of the term “Palestine” was not recognition by the European Union of the State of Palestine.  The European Union was concerned about the worrying developments at the Temple Mount site and recalled the special designation of holy sites, she said, emphasizing the importance of upholding the status quo in that regard.  The European Union’s vote did not represent a change of position on those issues, but the choice of language may affect its future voting patterns, she said.

The representative of Syria said in a general statement that the Committee had, once again with the exception of two Member States, sent a clear message to Israel that its occupation of the Syrian Golan contravened international law.  He called upon that country to end its occupation of Arab territory and to respect human rights and the Fourth Geneva Convention.  Israel’s activities in support of terrorist groups had been condemned by those protecting the primacy of international law, he said, emphasizing that the Balfour Declaration did not constitute divine justification of Israel’s crimes in Palestine.  Israel was cooperating with Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) and Nusrah Front, he said, recalling the deaths of “Blue Helmets” from Fiji at the hands of those groups.  In doing so, Israel was in violation of Security Council resolutions prohibiting support of terrorists, he noted.  Israel had arrested the “Mandela of Syria” simply for his opposition to the occupation of the Syrian Golan and detained him once again because he had documented the cooperation between Israel and Nusrah Front.  In closing, he described Zionism as a weapon of mass destruction, a chemical weapon that had perpetrated mass destruction in the Middle East.

FEDA ABDELHADY-NASSER, Deputy Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, expressed gratitude to all delegations that had voted in favour of the draft resolutions under consideration.  They constituted important recommendations to the General Assembly on core issues and challenges since the occupation and, indeed, the partition of Palestine.  “These are principled resolutions, not cynical,” she said, emphasizing that they were firmly rooted in international law.  Far from being one‑sided, she said, the texts reflected the international consensus, constituting a genuine expression of multilateralism despite ongoing attempts to nullify international law in that regard.  It was important to support the rights of Palestine refugees, she said, confirming that those rights had not been diminished.  The draft resolutions were “not empty pieces of paper”, but instead represented safeguards of those rights, she said.  The State of Palestine mobilization of all efforts aimed at upholding the international community’s responsibility to end the unjust and unlawful situation.

The representative of Iran said the representative of the Israeli regime should not waste the Committee’s time defending her country’s actions.  Instead, she should repent Israel’s various sins, such as occupation and the killing of innocent children.  Citing the Secretary‑General’s report, he noted that the Israeli regime had killed 63 innocent Palestinians in 2017, 20 of them children.

Finally, the Committee turned to the revitalization of the work of the General Assembly.  Acting without a vote, it approved the draft decision “Proposed programme of work and timetable of the Special Political and Decolonization Committee (Fourth Committee) for the seventy‑third session of the General Assembly” (document A/C.4/72/L.11).

Concluding Remarks

RAFAEL DARÍO RAMÍREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela), Chair of the Fourth Committee, noted that it had approved 39 draft resolutions and 4 draft decisions during the session.  It had held 28 formal meetings, covering a wide range of agenda items.  Welcoming the presence of senior officials during the session, including the President of the General Assembly and various heads of department, he also noted that States had been represented by members of parliament, directors and other high‑level officials.  During the decolonization debate, 116 individuals and organizations had addressed the Committee as petitioners from several Non‑Self‑Governing Territories, he said, recalling also that the Committee had held a joint panel discussion with the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) during the outer space discussion.  Noting that some delegates had been concerned about proceedings in the Committee, he emphasized that its discussions had been guided by the sovereignty of all States, expressing gratitude to all who had attended and demonstrated that respect.

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